“Joker” spurs controversy

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GRAPHIC BY KATHERINE PICKER

Some audience members believed "Joker" was insensitive.

Blaring shootings, chaotic riots and raging fires. When watching a movie, one might hardly focus on what lies behind action like this. However, for the new “Joker” movie, many find the background themes to be the most important part.

“Joker” came out on Oct. 4 and has been stirring up controversy surrounding the portrayal of violence and mental illness in the film ever since.

This ongoing controversy extends to the high school community as differing opinions about the movie circulate throughout the school.

Junior Frances Smith reflected on the underlying societal messages within the story.

“There is an ongoing conflict in the background throughout the movie between the rich, powerful, high class of Gotham and the lower class, represented by the Joker himself,” Smith said. “So, the movie, on a deeper level, is about class conflict and seeing the perspective of the underdog.”

Librarian Ann Collins also mentioned the societal conflict of differences in social class but instead, she stated how it actually plays a minor role in the film.

“The political statement, a wide gulf between haves and have nots, struck me as almost an afterthought. It certainly doesn’t promote social change regarding income equality,” Collins said.

Additionally, Smith found the threatening portrayal of the Joker’s mental illness unsettling.

“The thing that made me most uncomfortable was that the movie seemed to be suggesting that people with mental illnesses are dangerous people,” Smith said. “Although this is probably not the message that the filmmakers were intending to send, it is definitely what comes across, and it’s especially potent right now.”

Collins also questioned the representation of the Joker’s mental illness.

“The mental illness was certainly extreme. Is this portrayal accurate or made up to sell tickets? I suspect the latter. Nevertheless, it does not excuse the violence,” Collins said.

Junior Lindsey Mahoney believed that the Joker’s mental illness provided a valuable message to the audience.

“I liked the way they portrayed the Joker’s mental health issues because I thought it reflected his own inner conflict over them and his efforts to try and fit in with society,” Mahoney said. “The main thing I took away from the movie was how much adversity people with mental illnesses have to deal with while trying to attempt to lead what’s seen as a normal life.”

Another major topic of discussion circling the film is the depiction of violence. Some believe that the movie encourages violence among it’s viewers. However, Smith said that a majority of the violence is either justified or a result of cinematic drama.

“There is a controversy surrounding the Joker movie that it will incite violence in viewers.

Personally, I feel like the violent acts in the movie are all a product of some type of insanity, self defense or clearly unjust,” Smith said, “I don’t think that the average person would translate that into ‘oh, violence is okay!’”

Mahoney felt that the Joker’s violence was justified but in a more unsettling way.

“I did feel that his portrayal excused his violence as lots of the people he killed were people who wronged him, and I often found myself feeling as though his victims did, in a slightly twisted way, deserve it,” Mahoney said.

However, this controversy doesn’t take away from the positive reactions of the viewers.
Overall, Mahoney found that the sensitive topics within the film held a lot of significant takeaways for the audience.

“I feel strongly that people should see this movie because I thought it did a great job tackling the stigmas surrounding people with mental illnesses in society and brought in a larger audience by labeling this movie as more of an action-packed thriller,” she said.

Smith found that the discussions stemming from the movie enriched it even further.

“It was an amazing movie and it would be an utter shame if nobody saw it,” she said. “I think that a good piece of cinema should always raise questions and make viewers think deeply, and that is exactly what ‘Joker’ does.”